Dream come true for Smokey LL team | Inquirer Sports

Dream come true for Smokey LL team

11:09 AM November 21, 2010

Playing on their own field before a huge crowd that included VIPs was enough to lift their spirits.

Smokey Mountain’s Little League baseball team battled International Little League Association of Manila to an exciting 4-4 tie yesterday in an exhibition match at the “Field of Dreams,” a dumpsite transformed into a baseball field, in Tondo, Manila.


But the outcome hardly mattered for the Smokey Mountain kids, who were just delighted to be playing at home.

“We’re very happy that we have a field,” said 12-year-old Ralph Christian Valerio in Filipino.

“We don’t need to go somewhere else just to play,” added Valerio, whose mother, Rema, was able to watch him play for the first time since he took up the sport nine months ago.

A fiesta-like atmosphere welcomed visitors, including United States Ambassador Harry Thomas yesterday.

“This is great; this is what they should be doing (playing baseball),” said Thomas, who did the ceremonial pitch and also gave a pregame pep talk to the Smokey Mountain squad.

“These kids should be developed and they will help lead this wonderful nation,” he said.

“They should have faith and work hard and we will see what we can do to assist,” added Thomas, a former Little League player himself while growing up in Queens, New York.

The Smokey Mountain kids had trained and played games almost everywhere in Manila, from Luneta Park, to University of Santo Tomas, to the Marikina Sports Center, to the Manila Polo Club, and lately, the Alabang Country Club.

“This field is important to our players,” said Smokey Mountain coach Lito Riparip in Filipino.

“Our players love baseball and they know they have a bright future if they dedicate themselves to baseball.”

One of the Smokey Mountain coaches, Manuel Llave, said 10 former players who earned athletic scholarships have found jobs after acquiring their degrees.

“Some of our kids even succeeded without the field, how much more now that we have our own,” Llave said.

The Field of Dreams project started early last year.

First initiated by Little League Philippines, which held some games of its annual Philippine Series when the site was yet to be developed, the project gathered steam through the help of Gawad Kalinga.

The Philippine Junior Chamber International, headed by Toby Claudio, adapted the field as a major project, donating equipment to Smokey Mountain’s teams and providing other logistical needs to develop the field.

Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia also promised support for the project.

“The PSC has a grassroots program  and I don’t think it doesn’t get better than this,” said Garcia. “We will support it 100 percent.”

Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, who also attended the event, said the project should serve as a symbol that anything is possible if the rich and the poor work together.

“If we can help bring Smokey Mountain out of poverty then we can do it anywhere in the Philippines,” said Meloto.


TAGS: Field of Dreams, Little League Baseball, Smokey Mountain

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